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C.F.W. Walther on Sexagesima – Luke 8:4-15

by pastorjuhl ~ February 24th, 2011

A church in which human fancy and cleverness is preached instead of God’s Word is nothing else than an open door to hell, a shambles of Satan. It were better for one to go into a den of robbers and murderers than into such a church of unbelievers. Thieves would kill only his body, but in a church of unbelievers his immortal soul would be killed.

However, a church in which God’s Word is partly preached, or is still read from the Bible as God’s Word, though it is falsely expounded and perverted, is a place where many wells of life and comfort are stopped up and souls led over dangerous detours; here also Satan, with generous hand, sows malignant weed seeds alongside the good seed of the Word of God in the hearts of the hearers to seduce them. Such churches are so dangerous that even Christ says of them, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves’ (Mt. 21:13). If one can go only to such a church, it were better for him to read the Word of God at home, even if in tearful solitude.

What a blessing if Christians have both, if they can not only go peacefully to church, and if they also have a church where God’s Word is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution! Such a church, be it ever so small and plain, is worth more than all the glittering palaces of the great and rich of this world. Such a church is the place where the poor sinner can not only talk with God but also where God speaks to him through the mouth of a man; where God through his Word not only shows him the way to heaven, but also where the very heaven of grace and salvation opens wide to him. Whoever enters into such a church has reason to say with Jacob, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17)!”
It is not enough that a person lets the Word be preached to him, that he hears it with his ears. The important thing is that it falls into his heart, that the hearer learns to understand it, and that it shows its divine power in his heart and works true faith in him. If the Word, so to say, lies on the surface of the heart, if it does not enter into the heart, Satan comes and takes the Word from his heart so that the person does not believe and is lost. As the writer to the Hebrews expressly says, “The word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).”
When most become Christians they do not let God’s Word take deep root in them. They hurry over the consideration of their sinful corruption as quickly as possible. They do not let their rock-hard heart be truly crushed. They never really come to an insight of how corrupt their heart is, how weak they are without Christ, and how easily they can fall away again. They never learn to become really frightened over their sins, God’s wrath and hell. They never learn to see the depths of their poverty as poor sinners.

They wish to start being Christians but they never count the cost. Quickly they promise God to be a different person, but they do not know that they can do nothing, if God’s grace does not give them the power. They are never really freed from a trust in their own power and have, therefore, begun their Christianity trusting in themselves. Hence, at the first temptation they fall away, openly desert to the world, and leave the community of Christians; or, they remain outwardly with Christians but inwardly leave Christ. Alas! they never repent because they considered their previous repentance a deception, or, they comfort themselves with the fact that once they repented — and so they are finally lost.

Ah, my dear hearers, let us therefore not forget: We are not saved because once we came to faith but because we remain in the faith; we do not reach our heavenly goal because once we zealously avoided the way of the world and sin and went the way to heaven but because we remained on this way until our end. We are not heirs of eternal life because once we were God’s children and were united with Christ but because we remained with Christ until our death.
How you began your Christianity will not decide whether you will be saved but how things stand with you at the end of your life. You who have believed for a time but fell away at the time of temptation return again. It is worth it to pursue a blessed eternity and escape eternal misery! Just think, God has against you that you have left your first love. Repent and do the first works. But this time dig deeper. This time lay a deeper foundation. This time let the Word of God take deep root in you. In brief, become poor sinners who cling only to grace, seek only grace, rejoice only in grace. No wind of temptation, no flood of trial will tear down the house of your salvation.
A firmly grounded Christian will not fall easily from fear of the mockery and persecution of the world, nor because he trusts the enticements and the flattery of the world, nor because he is offended at the evil life of many who wish to be Christians. This nearly always causes beginners in Christianity to fall. Yet how many a strong hero of faith who has defied the enticing or threatening world, the unbelievers, and the sects, has nevertheless fallen because of care in continued trouble, need, disgrace, sickness, and other misery, or through wealth, good days, honor, and the like! How easily unbelieving care, discontent with one’s lot, worldly grief over earthly loss, and misery sneak in and stifle the Word and faith! How easily the gradual love of the world and trust in temporal things is firmly seated in even the best Christians when he becomes successful, and drives the Holy Ghost away again! How easily a Christian falls into the desire to be rich and thus falls according to the word of the apostle “into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9). Hence be on guard, examine yourself thoroughly every day, root out the weed of sin with God’s Word and prayer, and since one cannot root out everything, hate oneself, be ashamed of oneself, and as a poor miserable sinner, hungry and thirsty, draw daily grace upon grace from the well of grace.

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